The formal end of Singapore's circuit breaker on June 1 marked the conclusion of an extraordinary period in the country's economic and social history. The stringent curbs placed on businesses may have appeared to go against the dictum that business is Singapore's business. But they were necessary, paradoxically, so Singapore could continue to stay in business. Social distancing measures affected the flow of daily life but these, too, were critical to arrest the spread of the outbreak.
The cost to a gregarious society like Singapore was not slight, but it was outweighed by the benefit to public health. Lifting the measures has elicited some sighs of relief. Still, it is essential to treat the circuit breaker not as a period to be consigned to an uneasy memory, but also as an important lesson. The basic tenets of that period must continue to apply. Taking responsibility for one's surroundings and observing safe practices at home, in public or the office is key to ensuring Singapore can preserve the public health gains that it made during the circuit breaker. Crucially, the number of community transmissions must also continue to remain low as proof that the spread of Covid-19 can be brought under control even during this first phase of opening up. Nothing could be worse than a second wave of the pandemic. That would wipe out the painful gains made till now and could necessitate imposing another round of measures.
This lies behind the approach to open up the economy gradually in phases over the next several months. Society as a whole needs to remain careful so that a crucial mid-June review can be made by the authorities to determine whether conditions are right to move to a second phase of opening up, perhaps by the end of the month. The virus finds every opportunity to spread. This can be seen from new cases and clusters in countries that have lifted their lockdowns. This, too, is something Singapore must be mentally prepared for.